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Sep 12, 5:44 PM EDT

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Sponsors keep close watch on NFL investigation

Major brand sponsors are watching closely to make sure the National Football League doesn't fumble the investigation into how its executives handled evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

For big companies like Anheuser-Busch, General Motors and Procter & Gamble, an NFL sponsorship is a coveted prize. The deals can cost up to $10 million per brand, but they deliver eyeballs. An average of 17.4 million viewers watched professional football games during the 2013 season, according to Nielsen.

Now that the NFL is investigating how its executives handled a video showing Baltimore running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancee, sponsors are forced to balance the exposure NFL games offer with the risk of alienating customers.

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Olive Garden investor: Back off on the breadsticks

NEW YORK (AP) - Maybe there is such a thing as too many breadsticks.

In a nearly 300-page treatise on what's wrong with Olive Garden and its management, investor Starboard Value suggests the Italian restaurant chain is being reckless with its unlimited breadsticks. The hedge fund notes the chain's official policy is to bring out one breadstick per customer at a time, plus an extra for the table.

But Starboard says servers bring out more than that, leading to waste - and cold breadsticks. Starboard notes that it isn't pushing for an end to unlimited breadsticks, just more control in how they're doled out.

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IMF's Lagarde says women vital for global recovery

TOKYO (AP) - Empowerment of women and equal opportunities are crucial for driving a stronger global economic recovery, and for revitalizing Japan, the head of the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

The global recovery is too tepid and too turbulent, IMF chief Christine Lagarde told a gathering organized by the Japanese government and business groups to support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's campaign to promote a bigger role for women in the economy.

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Prosecutors target credit card thieves overseas

WASHINGTON (AP) - Criminals from around the world buy and sell stolen credit card information with ease in today's digital age. But if they commit their crime entirely outside the United States, they may be hard to prosecute.

Now Justice Department officials are seeking a tougher law to combat overseas credit card trafficking, an increasingly lucrative crime that crosses national boundaries.

Authorities say the current law is too weak because it allows people in other countries to avoid prosecution if they stay outside the United States when buying and selling the data and don't pass their illicit business through the U.S. The Justice Department is asking Congress to amend the law to make it illegal for an international criminal to possess, buy or sell a stolen credit card issued by a U.S. bank no matter where in the world the transaction occurs.

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INFLUENCE GAME: Chemical trade tries to shape regulations

WASHINGTON (AP) - The powerful chemical industry is putting its lobbying muscle behind legislation that would establish standards for chemicals used in products from household goods to cellphones and plastic water bottles - but also make it tougher for states to enact their own regulations.

Many states already have acted on their own - and that's what's gotten the industry's attention.

The group, which represents such chemical powerhouses as Dow, DuPont, BASF Corp. and 3M, spent nearly $6 million on lobbying in the first half of the year, the most recent reporting period.

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US retail sales rise in August on auto sales

WASHINGTON (AP) - Auto buying drove U.S. retail sales higher in August, a possible sign that job growth in recent months has led to accelerated consumer spending.

The Commerce Department said Friday that seasonally adjusted retail sales rose 0.6 percent compared with the prior month. Sales are up 5 percent in the past 12 months. July sales were also revised upward from flat to a 0.3 percent increase.

Motor vehicles accounted for roughly half of the August increase. Buying also picked up at restaurants and for furniture, electronics, sporting goods and building materials.

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US business stockpiles up 0.4 percent in July

WASHINGTON (AP) - Stockpiles held by U.S. businesses rose by a moderate amount in July while sales increased at the fastest pace in three months.

Stockpiles increased 0.4 percent in July, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That was the same increase as in June.

Sales increased 0.8 percent, the best showing since a similar rise in April. Sales had advanced 0.6 percent in June.

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Nevada governor enacts Tesla tax break package

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Calling it one of the most important pieces of legislation in Nevada history, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law an unprecedented package of incentives to seal a deal to bring Tesla Motors' $5 billion battery factory to the Silver State.

The "gigafactory" is expected to bring more than 20,000 jobs and $100 billion to Nevada's economy over the next 20 years. It will be the biggest lithium battery factory in the world and is critical to the electric car-maker's plans to begin mass marketing a more affordable line of the vehicles within three years.

One lawmaker said it was the most important development in Nevada since the construction of the Hoover Dam southeast of Las Vegas during the Great Depression.

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Ford recalls hybrid SUVs to fix stalling problem

DETROIT (AP) - Ford is recalling about 74,000 older-model gas-electric hybrid SUVs in the U.S. and Canada to fix a stalling problem.

The recall covers Ford Escapes from the 2005 through 2008 model years and Mercury Mariners from 2006 through 2008.

The company says the coolant pump for the hybrid system could fail, causing electronics to overheat. That can shut down the engine, increasing the risk of a crash.

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Digital First Media exploring possible sale of company

NEW YORK (AP) - Newspaper company Digital First Media said Friday that it is exploring strategic options, which could include a sale of the company or parts of it.

The privately held company is the nation's second biggest U.S. newspaper publisher by circulation. Its publications include the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News, the Denver Post and the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. Digital First Media serves 75 million customers monthly.

The announcement comes as readers continue moving to online sources to get their news and advertisers shift more of their spending to mobile and Web-based ads.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 61.49 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,987.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 11.91 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,985.54. The Nasdaq composite dropped 24.21 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,567.60.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 52 cents to close at $92.27 a barrel on the New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 12 cents to close at $97.96 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to close at $2.519 a gallon, heating oil fell 1.5 cents to close at $2.741 a gallon and natural gas rose 3.4 cents to close at $3.857 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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